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February 2004
Vol. 5, no. 2

Perspectives on Labour and Income

More seniors at work
Doreen Duchesne

  • Over 300,000 Canadians aged 65 or more were employed in 2001, one in 12 persons in that age group. Those 65 to 69 accounted for well over half (57%); 70 to 74, 26%; and 75 or older, 17%.
  • Although women made up the majority (56%) of the population 65 and over, most of the employed were men (68%), virtually unchanged from five years earlier.
  • Between 1996 and 2001, the ranks of working seniors rose faster than their population, 20% compared with 11%. Also, working seniors have been getting older: 43.0% were 70 or older in 2001, compared with 40.5% in 1996.
  • Working seniors are generally better educated: 1 in 5 with a university degree was employed in 2001, compared with only 1 in 20 with less than a grade 9 education. Also, working seniors were almost four times more likely than those 15 to 64 to be self-employed.
  • In 1996, half of workers aged 65 and over were concentrated in 20 occupations; by 2001, this had increased to 25. Farming and retail trade were the most popular, but many seniors were also found in professional occupations, such as accounting, medicine, religion and law.
  • The division of labour among today's seniors remains traditional. Some occupations, such as judges and ministers of religion, tend to be filled mainly by men; others, such as secretaries and babysitters, are taken mainly by women.
  • The distribution of working seniors across the provinces and territories was generally similar to their population distribution, except in Quebec and Alberta. Quebec accounted for 24% of Canadians 65 and over, but only 16% of workers that age; conversely, Alberta accounted for only 8% of the senior population, but 13% of its workforce.

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Doreen Duchesne is with the Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division. She can be reached at (613) 951-6379 or

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